Columnist Mindy Hammond revives her baking skills during lockdown

After months of minimal production from our hens, they finally kicked into laying mode during lockdown and Mr H was particularly pleased, as his favourite breakfast was poached eggs on toast. Production met demand until the egg habit was replaced by marmalade and muesli. Suddenly, the wooden egg box, which holds 12, was overflowing. There was only one thing for it. I had to bake.

A great idea! So great, the whole of our community obviously had the same idea and there was no flour to be had anywhere. Crustless quiche was the answer. I’m sure thousands of people make quiche regularly, but I’m not one of them. I made them occasionally when the girls were little but they weren’t fans, so my lovely quiche dish was retired to the back of the cupboard. Last weekend it was retrieved, washed and filled with an unappetising mixture of eggs, tomato, onion, cheese and bacon. Thirty minutes later a quiche Lorraine was served to great applause and in another 20 minutes nothing was left but the dish and a pleased Mindy.

I wasn’t so pleased when I emptied the dishwasher that evening, dropped a mug on to my quiche dish and watched it break in half. Should I order a replacement, I wondered? No. The family may have enjoyed that one but it was unlikely they’d want another for a while.

A few days later, Izzy was looking for inspiration. “There’s a recipe here for courgette quiche and you know how I love courgettes. D’you think you could make that one?”

It looked simpler than the first. “Yes, OK, I’ll give it a go.”

I cracked the eggs (eight of them), sliced red peppers and tomatoes then turned to my courgette. The instructions said, “Spiralise the courgette using the linguine cutting cone.” Well now, what’s that then? Surely my all-singing, all-dancing had-it-for-five-years-and-haven’t-unwrapped-all-the-attachments-yet food processing thingy had a spiralising attachment?

I dragged it out and discovered a drum with slits in. Maybe that was it? So I shoved the courgette in. It emerged cut to perfection… in thin slices. As I only had one courgette I decided there wasn’t much difference between spiralised and sliced, so threw it into the mixture. Then I remembered. I didn’t have a quiche dish. I did have a pie dish, though, so I poured the mix into it and put it in the oven, adding a sprinkling of Cheddar to the top.

I called the troops to lunch and placed before them a big and beautifully browned quiche-y pie. Everyone was very impressed until I attempted to cut it. The knife went into liquid! I harrumphed and, ignoring the sniggers of my family,  saved my creation by putting it in the microwave for five minutes. And then another three. I cut into it again. It wasn’t so much a quiche as scrambled egg with peppers, topped with cheese and tomato on a sloppy courgette base. Nobody ate it, except the bin.

My talented sister sent me a picture of her newly baked, and very impressive coffee-and-walnut cake that afternoon, “I wish I could bake cakes but I’ve never managed it in the Aga,” I told her. She gave me a few helpful hints before adding, “Go on, have a go and send me a picture.”

By now, I had a bag of self-raising and a bag of plain flour, so to boost my cooking confidence I reassembled the mixer, found a Victoria sponge recipe, weighed my ingredients and waited for my sponge to rise. And waited. It didn’t. I finally removed it from the tin and cut into a dense, wet, round doorstop. Richard entered, “Have you got those eggs for Mum and Dad? I was going to drop them off.”

“Hang on, I’ll nip out and collect the last two to make up half a dozen.” Richard looked confused. “But we’d loads this morning. How many eggs have you used?”

“There were eight in the quiche and four in the cake.”

He stared at me. “What cake? That’s a cake?”

“Well, I think I used the wrong flour.”

“So we finally manage to get hold of flour and just when eggs are like gold dust you’ve managed to waste all that in a day and make nothing edible.” He sighed.

I fetched more eggs and the next day I tried again. It stood five inches high, filled with homemade buttercream and strawberry jam and with a buttercream frosting – the best Victoria sponge I ever made. And delicious, too.

I’d like to thank my five hens (particularly Mrs Speckledy, who lays the biggest eggs), my mixer-cum-food processor and sister Nicky for restoring my self-esteem. For now…

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